You’re So Vane: Factor ONE

It’s hard to believe how far Factor has come in such a short time. Born of a motor sports think tank/engineering firm, bf1 systems, the first bikes were gorgeous, bleeding-edge experiments on wheels that went for over $30,000. Knowing they needed a big dose of real-world cycling experience to turn those experiments into production bikes, they hooked up with former Tour de France riders David Millar and Baden Cooke. Shortly after that, Cooke connected with Rob Gitelis, a man with extensive manufacturing experience for the industry’s top brands—plus his own factory—and they purchased Factor from bf1 systems. While the Factor O2 has been responsible for most of the brand’s press thanks to a guy named Romain Bardet, the new Factor ONE aero bike is perhaps the best example of the brand’s new stewards’ ability to make the cutting-edge tech of bf1 systems into viable production bikes.

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PELOTON

THE DETAILS

The ONE’s most striking detail is obviously the split down tube, with the sexy bayonet-style head tube a close second. The split design was pioneered by bf1 systems in the original Factor 001, the bike with the $30,000-plus price tag, and is also used in Factor’s Slick TT. It’s called the Twin Vane Evo down tube and it has two main reasons for being. According to Factor, it gives turbulent air from the front tire more options to flow around and through the down tube, reducing drag. Secondly, airfoils are not renowned for lateral stiffness—imagine looking at a Boeing 777 wing bounce up and down as you taxi down the runway—so the dual design is a way to massively stiffen the down tube. The added manufacturing complexity must be huge, but Factor has experience helping brands like Cervélo push the envelope of carbon design and manufacturing, so it was unafraid of the challenge.

The aero doesn’t end there. First impressions are key in aerodynamics and the ONE makes a very good first impression thanks to the OTIS bar and bayonet-style head tube. OTIS stands for “ONE Total Integration System” and like other integrated systems it’s designed to remove stem faceplates, external cables and, most importantly, drag. But thanks to the bayonet system’s modular construction, that integration doesn’t mean you’ll need to re-cable your bike or cut the steer tube every time you want to change a spacer.

Some of the Factor ONE’s aero features are a bit more traditional, like the Kamm-tail truncated airfoils seen throughout the bike and the wide stance presented by both the fork blades and the seat stays. These wide stances not only give the bike a powerful appearance, they also keep the tubes away from the spinning wheels, helping both act independently for cleaner airflow.

Factor makes a lot of aero claims about the ONE, but doesn’t provide any comparative analysis of how the bike matches up to the Madones and Venges of the world. If the Twin Vane is so fast, why not? When asked, Factor provides a simple answer: “Go ride it!” More about that later, but for what it’s worth, Romain Bardet said he didn’t want a Factor ONE to ride—until he hopped on AG2R La Mondiale teammate Oliver Naesen’s ONE at training camp. Bardet has one now. However, if it is the fastest aero road bike in the peloton, we imagine there would be some published data.

The bike we tested costs $12,000 with Dura-Ace Di2 disc and Black Inc wheels; AG2R will ride the direct-mount rim version. While a steep price, it’s comparable to the top aero bikes from many other brands.

THE RIDE

“Go ride it!” is our favorite kind of command. While ride feedback doesn’t have the objectivity or quantifiability of wind tunnels or CFD (computational fluid dynamics), it’s really the only feedback that matters. If it feels fast, we feel good—and the Factor ONE feels fast, blindingly fast. The overwhelming takeaway was of a road-bike feel with TT-like speed. It excels at turning big wattage in the saddle into pure speed. It’s so stiff and planted that at more than 700 watts in the saddle it feels as if you have the support of a seated leg press to drive power to the pedals. An aggressive fit helps with this. At 166mm, the head tube of our 58cm test bike is 24mm lower than a 58cm Venge, resulting in a much more aero rider position.

The integrated OTIS front end is also a rare home run in that category. The bars, with 125mm of reach and 80mm of drop, provide very comfortable hand positions and the slightly rounded Kamm-tail tops are comfortable for a more relaxed pace or tempo climbing. They are also super stiff, combining with the bayonet head tube and Twin Vane down tube to create total confidence and precision at the bars, whether sprinting or high-G cornering.

That super-stiff front end does come with a stiff ride, but both the rim and disc bikes allow for 28mm tires, which mitigates much of this. The stiff front end also leads to a slightly unbalanced feel under peak wattage sprinting out of the saddle. The rear is by no means whippy, but it doesn’t stay quite as still and planted as the front end. The rear is likely as stiff or stiffer than most aero road bikes, but in comparison to the sublime front end, it’s not a monolithic feeling past 1,500 watts.

SPECIFICATION

7.45kg/16.4 lbs., size 58cm, as tested, w/o pedals or cages Build: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Disc, Factor OTIS bar and stem, Black Inc Fifty C disc wheels, fi’zi:k Arione saddle

factorbikes.com; $12,000